Cleaning Up the Clean Water Act

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Two initiatives are in the works that would streamline the Environmental Protection Agency's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System of the Clean Water Act, which regulates storm water pollution on construction sites.

September 01, 2006

There are two initiatives underfoot to streamline the Environmental Protection Agency's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System of the Clean Water Act, which regulates storm water pollution on construction sites. The first initiative is a plan to reform current EPA policy, and the second is a Congressional bill following close on its heels.

Both moves are intended to reduce the number of times builders pay permit fees for state, local and national regulation policies. Such a change could mean lower construction costs and more affordable homes. According to a 2005 NAHB Member Survey, builders pay on average $312,298 per site to comply with storm water runoff prevention regulations — an estimated increase in housing cost of $1,400 to $7,000 per unit.

Leading the Way

This past May the EPA issued a missive to its regional offices saying the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans that builders submit to the federal government can meet local and state requirements, too. "This policy has always been around but is now being enforced," says Jim Tobin, staff vice president of government affairs for the NAHB.

On the Congressional Front

Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) is spearheading an effort to revamp the EPA's water permit and enforcement policies. While Duncan's proposal, H.R. 5558, would also minimize duplication of permit fees and plans, it proposes more comprehensive changes. The bill aims to educate construction site managers on regulatory requirements; provide a vehicle for responding to EPA requests for building site information; give builders an opportunity to correct certain permit deficiencies; and provide for more leadership of EPA regulation on a state-level.

As of late August, the bill was in a House subcommittee; sponsors hope to present it to the President before the end of September.

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